What made the four hour drive North more than worth it was two things: the conference speakers and the company I kept. The Anglican Schools office is run, in this country, by the extraordinary and wonderful Ali Ballantyne. Despite being shaken out of her Christchurch office and being forced to run things on a patchwork system she has cobbled together in the garage of her home, she put together a program that was as good as anything I have been to for years. The chief speaker was Lat Blaylock, a Christian Education theorist from the UK with a profound understanding of the spiritual needs of children and a passion for enabling them to talk about the big questions in life. I came away from the conference with the process I will use in this year's Diocesan Synod to help us address issues of commitment and allocation of resources. I came away also with knowledge of an extraordinary resource I will share later: a collection of spiritual poems written by British children.
I knew many of the people at the conference, although, poor dears, some of them had aged so much they didn't recognise me. It is interesting to see someone after a long separation because the progress in that person's life (or the lack of it) will be dramatically apparent; and in the case of the many with whom I had conversations it was quite inspiring to see where the Spirit had led them and what the Spirit was making of them. Many have devoted most of their working lives to the spiritual nurture and education of young people, and they are pretty darned good at it. Without exception they are becoming whole, grounded, self aware people. I met some others as well, for the first time, largely principals of Anglican schools, and again these were very impressive people. In particular, Gillian Simpson, the Principal of St. Margaret's College in Christchurch, spoke at the conference dinner. She spoke simply but powerfully about surviving the earthquake: about the devastation of her school and the loss of life in her school community; and of the faith and practical support from her Anglican community which has sustained her. I found her address profoundly moving and inspiring.
Before driving home after the conference I went out to Sumner for lunch with an old friend. I had a sandwich in his devastated house, and looked out over the wreckage of his neighbourhood. I'll write of that later, also.